Dialogue

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
User avatar
RSchibler
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:53 pm
Contact:

Dialogue

Postby RSchibler » Sun Apr 16, 2017 6:33 pm

I've been digging through every post on here for a few months now as well as reading everything I can get my hands on about writing across the internet. I've got a few books on writing in the mail but I live overseas and have to wait for shipping. Something I've run into a lot is the concept of simplifying your writing and making sure that every sentence is as useful as possible. "Tighten your prose." Well enough- something I can work on.

How does that work with dialogue? Based on a post here, I did a CTL+F for "that" in my short story for Q2 and sheesh - 78 instances. I was able to remove a lot of them, but many of them appeared in character dialogue and I hesitated to remove those because that's how people talk. They use unnecessary words, constantly. Does that matter, for readability? Do we want our fictional characters to sound like real people? Or do we expect them to read more concisely? I did a glance through of my bookshelf and found a mixture of both, for what it's worth.

I'm curious what the minds rolling around here have to say!
Trying to refute entropy with words.

Vol34: Q2 R, Q3 HM, Q4 R
Vol35: pending

Blogging about my writing journey at: http://www.rebeccaetreasure.com/blog

User avatar
disgruntledpeony
Posts: 594
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:21 pm

Re: Dialogue

Postby disgruntledpeony » Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:04 pm

I would say that the goal is to have dialogue that feels natural while still cutting out unnecessary bits--the umm's, awkward pauses, and needless word repetitions. Different characters should have different speech patterns, so the dialogue doesn't feel wooden. Sometimes keeping a particular awkwardness of speech can distinguish one character from another, but it's important not to go overboard with that either.
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
2015, Q4: R
2016: SF, n/a, SHM, SHM
2017: SHM, n/a, F, R

kentagions
Posts: 242
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:45 pm
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Re: Dialogue

Postby kentagions » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:09 pm

Implied: Suggested but not directly expressed.

When one sits down to a normal family dinner, one expects dialog about work, school, weather, sports, family, gossip, etc. Imagine writing a story about a juicy piece of family gossip. Do you include the work talk that took place, the school talk, weather or sports if they have nothing to do with the story? They are real and they may be valid points including family members, but if they have nothing to do with the story, they may be safely removed from dialog. Including them for realism may be implied by a quick sentence about the overall tone and milieu surrounding the dinner.

Two secondary characters may have important roles to play in a story. Let's imply they hate each other and are always bickering. See how you're already thinking about bickering without any dialog? They can glare at each other and present opposing views, but off-topic dialog from them is unnecessary.

In short fiction, opposing arguments can be implied. There are a million reasons not to open the forbidden door, but it's more powerful to have a stern character frown and shake her head than to enumerate rules. Good dialog, like good writing, remains goal oriented and positive (by positive, I mean that it has a point and is going somewhere, even if we're going to hell). In an essay, an opposing argument may be fully explored, but in speculative fiction, opposition should be pared to its essential elements and may not require dialog at all.

Look up the Turkey City Lexicon and filter out "Info dumps" and "As you know, Bob"'s.

You're right to be concerned with characters sounding real. Write dialog with overall milieu in mind. Milieu drives idioms, metaphors and similes. Although violations of milieu might serve to define character (Read Yeager, the biography of Chuck Yeager, first man to break the sound barrier, and tell me you can't hear that he's from West Virginia. There he was, piloting cutting edge technology and describing his experiences with country idioms.). That said, there's no real standard by which to tighten up dialog in this way.

As I recall, "that" was a personal foible of the author in question. It's good to have others read your material and tell you if they think you've overused words or phrases. But remember that repeated words and phrases can indicate character without a character tag ('"The game's afoot," said Sherlock' can be shortened to "The game's afoot.")

Good luck

amoskalik
Posts: 948
Joined: Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:40 pm
Location: Detroit, MI
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby amoskalik » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:30 am

Dialog should feel real, but paradoxically, that means you will *not* faithfully reproduce the sounds that actually come out of people's mouths. If you doubt this, just read a transcription of an actual conversation or record and transcribe one of your own conversations. It will seem shockingly incoherent even if the people involved are highly eloquent.

This is because when we record in our minds what is being said, we transcribe not just the words uttered, but all the context and nonverbal cues that add meaning. When we write dialog, we must do the same. We must add in the context and nonverbal cues. Some of this will be by description. Joe raised a brow, Sally cocked her head, etc. but mostly this will be done with the words within the quotation marks. We want to capture the meaning the character wishes to convey in as coherent as way as possible and add in a dash of style that says something deeper about that character and helps distinguish her from other characters in the story.

Easier said than done, I cannot claim to have come anywhere near mastering this, but once you've accomplished this to the best of your ability, eliminate all extraneous words just as you would elsewhere.
Trajectory HM R R HM R R HM HM HM R

kentagions
Posts: 242
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:45 pm
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Re: Dialogue

Postby kentagions » Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:20 am

Kind of along amoskalik's line of thought, I also have a dialog question for the thread. Are verbally expressed, non-words acceptable?

Let's say I show someone a great new way to make a sandwich. They say, "Huh," meaning: I had never thought to do it that way.
Your father isn't paying attention to you, then suddenly wants you to repeat yourself and says, "Hmm?" instead of, "Please tell me everything I didn't pay attention to the first time."

With proper characterization and context, could non-words be used to create briefer dialog sequences?

User avatar
disgruntledpeony
Posts: 594
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:21 pm

Re: Dialogue

Postby disgruntledpeony » Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:47 am

kentagions wrote:Kind of along amoskalik's line of thought, I also have a dialog question for the thread. Are verbally expressed, non-words acceptable?

Let's say I show someone a great new way to make a sandwich. They say, "Huh," meaning: I had never thought to do it that way.
Your father isn't paying attention to you, then suddenly wants you to repeat yourself and says, "Hmm?" instead of, "Please tell me everything I didn't pay attention to the first time."

With proper characterization and context, could non-words be used to create briefer dialog sequences?

I would imagine so, in contexts like that.
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
2015, Q4: R
2016: SF, n/a, SHM, SHM
2017: SHM, n/a, F, R

amoskalik
Posts: 948
Joined: Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:40 pm
Location: Detroit, MI
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby amoskalik » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:43 am

kentagions wrote:Kind of along amoskalik's line of thought, I also have a dialog question for the thread. Are verbally expressed, non-words acceptable?

Let's say I show someone a great new way to make a sandwich. They say, "Huh," meaning: I had never thought to do it that way.
Your father isn't paying attention to you, then suddenly wants you to repeat yourself and says, "Hmm?" instead of, "Please tell me everything I didn't pay attention to the first time."

With proper characterization and context, could non-words be used to create briefer dialog sequences?


Yes, I would think in the correct context, "Huh?" or "Hmm?" could convey meaning and characterization very effectively and therefore would be more than acceptable. Certainly more acceptable than "Please tell me everything I didn't pay attention to the first time." as this is needlessly verbose and inauthentic. I suppose we could manufacture a character who would utter such a monstrosity in some situation, but even then you would want to rework to get all those words to do more work for you by maybe implying irony, fascination, or annoyance for instance.
Trajectory HM R R HM R R HM HM HM R

User avatar
RSchibler
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:53 pm
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby RSchibler » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:02 pm

Thanks all. I feel the general consensus is to be as streamlined as possible, while also giving the impression of natural (or perhaps convincing would be a better word here) speech - which to me suggests the unnecessary "that" problem I have is, indeed, a problem. Thanks again.
Trying to refute entropy with words.

Vol34: Q2 R, Q3 HM, Q4 R
Vol35: pending

Blogging about my writing journey at: http://www.rebeccaetreasure.com/blog

amyhg
Posts: 61
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2017 5:28 pm

Re: Dialogue

Postby amyhg » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:55 pm

Very interesting thread.
Thought I'd throw in a writing exercise just to round it off. ;)

Pick two character tropes you want to attach characters to.
Pick a random topic for these two characters to discuss.
Write a conversation between the two characters that is purely dialogue - no tags and no descriptions.

The goal is for another reader to be able to read the conversation and be able to clearly distinguish who is talking when and what the characters are like simply from diction and syntax.

Happy writing!
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
v34: Q1 - R; Q2 - SECOND PLACE! Q3 - HM (oops...?)
http://www.amyhenriegillett.com

User avatar
Ishmael
Posts: 1673
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:47 am
Location: Stirlingshire, UK

Re: Dialogue

Postby Ishmael » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:43 am

A little mention of the importance of stress perhaps wouldn't go amiss. In spoken dialogue we can hear the stress. In written dialogue we can't. Here's a six word sentence with seven different meanings I once came across in a text book.

You didn't think it was important?

You didn't think it was important.

You didn't think it was important.

You didn't think it was important.

You didn't think it was important.

You didn't think it was important.

You didn't think it was important.

It's surprising how often you hear professional actors misplace the stress in their lines. This suggests even they can't quite grasp what the author's trying to say. If it's really important to get it right, then the use of italics seems generally acceptable.
1 x SF, 2 x SHM, 11 x HM, WotF batting average .583
Blog The View From Sliabh Mannan.

LDWriter2
Posts: 3341
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 8:59 pm
Location: Central Cailf.
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby LDWriter2 » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:09 pm

Do you receive Dave's Kick in the Pants? They are his "daily" comments on writing. He may have one on dialogue even though many of the suggestions here are good. Which is why I won't add mine since it would be a repeat.
Working on turning Lead into Gold.

Four HMs From WotF
The latest was Q1'12
HM-quarter 4 Volume 32
One HM for another contest
published in Strange New Worlds Ten.
Another HM http://onthepremises.com/minis/mini_18.html

User avatar
RSchibler
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:53 pm
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby RSchibler » Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:26 pm

LDWriter2 wrote:Do you receive Dave's Kick in the Pants? They are his "daily" comments on writing. He may have one on dialogue even though many of the suggestions here are good. Which is why I won't add mine since it would be a repeat.


I do subscribe to that! I have found them really helpful. I didn't think about doing a back search for dialogue on that site- thanks for the suggestion wotf008
Trying to refute entropy with words.

Vol34: Q2 R, Q3 HM, Q4 R
Vol35: pending

Blogging about my writing journey at: http://www.rebeccaetreasure.com/blog

jficke13
Posts: 111
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:24 am
Location: Wisconsin
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby jficke13 » Sun Apr 30, 2017 5:43 am

Do you have a link for the kicks?
HM x2, Vol. 34 Q4 - 3rd. www.jonficke.wordpress.com

User avatar
disgruntledpeony
Posts: 594
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:21 pm

Re: Dialogue

Postby disgruntledpeony » Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:11 am

If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
2015, Q4: R
2016: SF, n/a, SHM, SHM
2017: SHM, n/a, F, R

User avatar
RSchibler
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:53 pm
Contact:

Re: Dialogue

Postby RSchibler » Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:31 pm

disgruntledpeony wrote:http://davidfarland.com/category/for-writers/


The dialogue one that came up, while interesting, didn't directly address my original question. But digging through archives is always a good time wotf001
Trying to refute entropy with words.

Vol34: Q2 R, Q3 HM, Q4 R
Vol35: pending

Blogging about my writing journey at: http://www.rebeccaetreasure.com/blog


Return to “Writing: Craft, Talent, Technique”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest